By Savanah Bandy

Everyone has that special something they’re good at – that thing they love to do that feeds their soul and makes them feel alive.  

For years, Nina Johnston didn’t know what that special something was for her but that changed the minute she walked into Local Color Art Gallery & Studio in Joplin. 

“As soon as I walked into that gallery, the heavens opened up and I knew, ‘This is what you’re meant to do and this is where you’re supposed to be,’” she said.  

It had to be fate because the odds that Nina, a Canadian, would ever set foot in an art gallery in Joplin, Missouri, were slim to none. But as fate would have it, in 1995, her husband’s company transferred from Ontario to Joplin and the couple packed up and moved over 1,000 miles away from home. 

“It was very difficult at first,” she said. “It’s very, very hard to meet people when you don’t have children – all my kids were grown – and I couldn’t work because I wasn’t a permanent resident yet. I was always looking for things to do to meet people, and I saw one day in the Joplin Globe that a painting class was offered at Local Color.” 

She instantly was hooked. For years, she attended painting classes multiple times a week at Local Color, learning from artists like Margie Moss, Jesse McCormick and Paula Giltner. 

“In the beginning, I was terrible, but I fell in love with painting, so I kept coming back and kept trying,” Nina said. 

A lifelong animal lover, it didn’t take her long to discover her favorite subject matter was wildlife. She started painting animals with acrylics but switched to oil about three years into her painting career. She is currently experimenting with a thick acrylic that gives her paintings a 3D effect. 

With practice, Nina went from a novice to an expert. In 2015, she was asked to join Local Color as part of a collective of 18 professional artists. 

“When they asked me to join the gallery, I was flabbergasted! So now I’m part of the gallery, and I put my paintings up on the wall and attach a price tag to them, which still blows me away.”

Nina’s story serves as a reminder that it’s never too late to find that special something you’re good at. 

“I think we all listen to that little track in our head that goes, ‘Oh, you’re not good enough.’ I’d say to anyone to put all those fearful thoughts out of your head and just get started. Take a class as a starting point and maybe that will inspire you. Sometimes all we need is a little push.”